Materials Handling Is Getting Safer, More Accurate, And More Efficient

Materials handling is getting safer, more accurate, and more efficient

Jan. 24, 2023
Sheila Kennedy explores how materials handling technology is evolving.

How products and materials are moved and controlled in manufacturing, warehousing, and logistics operations continues to improve. Robots, drones, and supporting software are getting more intelligent. Solutions are safer with greater environmental awareness and more efficient in their capabilities and performance.

Warehousing and distribution control

Preventing forklifts from colliding with pedestrians or other vehicles is the goal of iWAREHOUSE FieldSense (iW.FieldSense) from The Raymond Corporation. It is a new proximity notification system that warehouse managers can customize to fit their specific operations without significant infrastructure change, says Steve Gorr, Raymond’s application manager for iWAREHOUSE Solutions.

Compatible with virtually any forklift or vehicle, iW.FieldSense’s magnetic field generation (MFG) technology sees through and around most objects and produces audible and visual alerts when a properly equipped pedestrian or vehicle comes within a predefined range. Also available are access controls and an infrastructure option that alerts vehicle operators to their proximity to protected structures.

The combination of Ware’s warehouse inventory automation software and its partner Skydio’s fully autonomous drones simplifies inventory data capture and reporting. Using drones to track inventory increases safety, accuracy, and efficiency. Leveraging AI-powered inventory reporting software that integrates to any warehouse management system (WMS) enables proactive control.

“The drones fly on a schedule defined in our software, Ware Cloud, which means warehouse operators can review inventory data provided for them, rather than having to cycle count manually themselves,” explains Ian Smith, CEO at Ware. “We're also providing more detailed insights—enabling operators to locate misplaced pallets faster and increase accuracy—saving businesses time and money compared to manual inventory tracking.”

Honeywell Track & Trace enables the monitoring and tracking of goods moving within the supply chain and logistics operations, including products within assets such as a vehicle, container, palette, or packaging box. In highly regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and tobacco, having a reliable, accurate, and customizable tracking solution is critical. Honeywell Track & Trace offers serialization and tracking for real-time visibility and reporting at the micro-level.

According to Nitesh Rauniyar, general manager of Honeywell Connected Logistics, “Honeywell Track & Trace brings end-to-end traceability throughout the supply chain via a SaaS solution that organizations can scale to their business needs in order to operate more efficiently, drive more sustainable business processes, and achieve regulatory compliance.”

Robotic handling

A new IP69K-rated food handling robot meets USDA and FDA food safety standards. The DR-3iB/6 Stainless delta robot from FANUC, designed for picking and packing primary foods, operates with FANUC’s R-30iB Plus industrial robot controller. With iRVision, an intelligent integrated vision system, and functions such as Force Sensing, Collision Guard, and Zero Down Time (ZDT), it helps food companies address increasing production demands while overcoming labor shortages.

“We paid close attention to our customers’ request for a stainless robot that’s able to withstand very stringent cleaning methods,” observes Jessica Juhasz, staff engineer at FANUC America. “Cleanliness in food processing prevents outbreaks which can cost companies millions of dollars to recover.”

The Guardian XT dexterous robotic system from Sarcos Technology and Robotics Corporation supports a wide variety of tasks, such as at-height pick and pack and operational maintenance and repair, through teleoperated or semi-autonomous operation.

The anthropomorphic robot’s end effectors can “grab and operate a variety of off-the-shelf trade tools while working at height or on the ground, removing a human worker from dangerous scenarios and helping to combat fatigue-related downtime and occupational injuries,” explains Jorgen Pedersen, chief operating officer at Sarcos. “It is also compatible with Sarcos perception software and autonomy algorithms for autonomous mobile manipulation in both structured and unstructured environments.”

The OnRobot Palletizer, an automated palletizing hardware and software solution, comes with D:PLOY, OnRobot’s new software platform for robotic deployment. “D:PLOY completely eliminates the need to create logic and program flow as well as program testing, debugging, and checking/measuring cell performance metrics. That cuts the time to deployment by up to 90%," says Kristian Hulgard, general manager of OnRobot's Americas division.

D:PLOY works with any robot arm and auto-detects and auto-configures all of the components in the palletizing cell, adds Hulgard. Users only need to define the box parameters, pick and slip-sheet positions, pallet size and pattern definition (which drives a lot of time in manual setups), and any obstacles in the cell.

About the Author

Sheila Kennedy | CMRP

Sheila Kennedy, CMRP, is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at [email protected] or

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